When we’re faced with something or someone special, we immediately recognize it, right? That’s what happened to us with the movie “Sul più bello,” [lit. “At the best part”] and it’s what happened to us with Ludovica Francesconi, who plays Marta, a girl suffering from a severe illness and falling in love with “the best guy.” It sounds like a simple storyline, like many others out there, doesn’t it? Well, not quite. Ludovica’s performance, along with a dynamic direction, super colorful cinematography, and a story that kind of talks about all of us, make us say that this movie is truly special.
And so is Ludovica, who from a girl that left everything behind to follow her dream (which didn’t materialize out of thin air and become true, but it’s the result of hard study and devotion) has now become a woman, a self-aware human who’s also learned “not to care,” but without losing that childish lightheartedness and disarming charm, especially when she talks about her epic fails.
Ludovica couldn’t but be our August cover story: an example of a young actress, with a brilliant mind, an example for her generation and the younger ones who, just like her, “don’t care” about the standards, while looking for their authenticity.
All we can do is wait for the second chapter of the trilogy, “Ancora più bello,” coming out in theaters on September 16th!
What’s your first cinema memory?
Well, I was with my grandma, and I was very young, I must have been 5 more or less, and she made me see “Cinema Paradiso,” a wonderful movie. And I looked at that kid and said, “Wow, I want to be like him!”, who snooped on the movie theater from behind that little lounge. I was so fascinated that I thought, “I’m just like him.”
In general, when you read a script, is there anything in particular that makes you say yes, or a side of the character that attracts you the most?
I like very fragile, tridimensional characters, where I can move a lot. I love to analyze, to always look for a subtext, even the tiniest one, which could still help me give a lot of tridimensionality to my characters. I don’t have preferences for any specific kind of personality, but I’m always looking for inputs, so I’d like to always do different things.
I would imagine that Marta (“Sul più bello”) has been a very nice challenge for you, as she’s a very nuanced character.
Yes, that’s because the premise is that it’s a character who hasn’t had much from life: her parents died when she was three, she suffers from a severe disease. Despite all this, she has a wonderful personality, as well as the way she faces things, she looks at the world around her. She surprised me a lot because you don’t usually expect people with this kind of background to behave like this, to be so bold, so strong, precisely in her desire to take on the world. So, I found a character who taught me a lot because I used to be one of those people who tend to put themselves down, also when faced with a challenge, as much as I’m determined, there was always a part of me saying: “Just keep your feet on the ground.” Which is right, we should keep our feet on the ground, but it dragged me down a little bit too much to avoid being disappointed when faced with certain expectations. Marta taught me not to care about it [laughs], she taught me that it’s fine, whatever it happens, “stand up and take on the world,” in other words.
You already know this, I’ve said this again to you when we met, I really loved the film: the direction, the cinematography, you actors, everything’s amazing, and I think it’s a truly one-of-a-kind product on the Italian movie scene.
It’s a product that also surprised me a lot in terms of who watched it and appreciated it because not only young people loved it, but also the parents, who sent messages and, after watching the film, found a connection with their sons and daughters: thanks to this comedy, their sons and daughters opened up about the situations that can typically happen during adolescence. So, I was surprised by the fact that so many different people have appreciated it.
“Marta taught me not to care about it [laughs], she taught me that it’s fine, whatever it happens, ‘stand up and take on the world,’ in other words.”
In fact, it’s universal in this sense, it doesn’t have one specific audience, it really is for everyone, and it’s very well-made. It might seem obvious, but it isn’t, especially in rom-coms, romantic dramas, where sometimes the focus is too much on the disease, or certain aspects rather than others, while “Sul più bello” includes so many well-balanced themes.
That’s because it’s a movie that doesn’t talk about the disease, in the sense that the protagonist is not the disease, but the character who suffers from it.
Do you remember what you thought when you first read the script?
“This is cool!” [laughs], I was on cloud nine. When I was still at the callbacks, they sent me the script to start framing the character a bit, so, I was actually very nervous because I had to study her, catch as much information as I could because, in two days’ time, I would have had the final callback. Anyway, the first thing I thought was, “So, I want to really enjoy this script, I will read it stress-free, then I’ll start crying about it” [laughs]. It was a very strong impact because I soon understood it wasn’t a movie about the illness. Moreover, the scenes that we chose, too, the ones we brought to the auditions, were all focused on the family dynamics, the dynamics with her boyfriend, all things concerning many other aspects of life. Later, they organized for me a meeting with a pulmonologist, so that was when there was a more accurate study of the illness.
“…it’s a movie that doesn’t talk about the disease, in the sense that the protagonist is not the disease, but the character who suffers from it.”
How did you work on “Sul più bello” with the director, Alice Filippi, also as far as your character is concerned?
We worked a lot together, Alice was great with me, very kind, always available, she kind of took care of me on my very first set. We rehearsed a lot, all the scenes, and we added nuances; together, we customized the character, and her haircut, too, for example, wasn’t casual, we spent quite some time with the hairstylist to look for the perfect length for my character’s bangs, millimeter by millimeter, so she was very meticulous. As far as my character is concerned, what I said to the auditions was, “I think Marta is a bit of a rock girl.” What I meant is that she’s not a geek as everyone thinks because she keeps living her life with determination. We took this feeling I had and directed the whole film towards it, the choice of her outfits included.
As bizarre as she can be, Marta doesn’t make bad choices in terms of looks, she simply has her own, unique style, which is so strong that it doesn’t belong to any fashion standard, she doesn’t follow the fashion trends, but she has her own style, she doesn’t just wear random clothes. So, we tried to represent a character who was as tridimensional and colorful as possible, using our fantasy a lot. She’s a sort of fairytale, after all, a character who could make people dream because, while creating it, we daydreamed a little bit.
“She’s a sort of fairytale…”
Are such details like your hair, or personal style, or the makeup you wear, important for you, as well, in your life?
I’m madly in love with fashion, I really like clothes, I would spend hours choosing clothes to wear, sometimes it happens to me to change clothes five or six times a day! [laughs] Moreover, my mom is a fashion designer, so I took this after her. In this regard, I felt very close to Marta because, as much as I have my own style, I would actually put on anything that could represent my state of mind at that precise moment. However, after wearing Marta’s clothes for all this time, I had a moment in which I only wanted to wear total black! [laughs]
Is there a line you say, or a scene from both “Ancora più bello” or “Sul più bello,” that you particularly liked, or that stuck with you even after a long time?
There would be a scene from “Ancora più bello.” I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but, in this scene, Marta bares her soul for the very first time and she’s not afraid to express all of those darker feelings of hers that she always tries to hide behind a smile. So, more than a line, at that moment, when I read the script of “Ancora più bello,” I had to stop for a while because it somehow made me understand that it is right to be positive, to “take on the world,” but, at the same time, sometimes you also need to embrace all these fears, frustrations. So, that scene that you’re going to see, where the character opens up, I think it’s the scene I liked filming the most in the whole trilogy.
“I’m madly in love with fashion, […] I would spend hours choosing clothes to wear, sometimes it happens to me to change clothes five or six times a day!”
I can’t wait to see it then!
“Ancora più bello” is about to be released, and we can assume from the trailer that some big changes are going to happen. What was your approach to this new chapter? There was also a new director: how did your approach to the character change, in this sense? Did it stay the same or did you see it mature?
I’ve definitely approached the set in a different way because I had already had my first experience, after all, I’d understood the set dynamics, so I adopted a work mentality more than something like: “Oh my God, I’m living my dream!” [laughs]. So, despite that fragility, I felt in the first movie, personally, as an actress, as much as I’m still quite euphoric, I am now more self-conscious and confident on set. Of course, changing director corresponds to changing the point of view of the film, so, there were some big changes, but Claudio [Norza] and I worked together on the growth of my character, who becomes an adult, she enters this growth phase in the second movie, which will then end in the third one. So, the dynamics and Marta’s choices change, as well, because she matures. As a teenager, she starts having also bigger responsibilities because maybe, simply with her first love, Arturo, she realizes that opposites do attract, but in the end, they break up.
This is because, given the way she is, she would want someone very colorful, expansive, with whom she could share all the things she goes through, and she finds Gabriele, who will be her true love in the end. All of this involves so many dynamics, she deals with a completely different relationship, of a more grown-up kind: it will be a long-distance relationship, Gabriele moves to Paris, so they will be constantly put to test, also with the arrival of Tommaso, this rider who will make Gabriele experience jealousy a little bit. So, the movie will show some dynamics that are more likely to happen to college-aged people, rather than teenagers. Claudio and I mainly worked on this.
In the beginning, with Arturo, and also now, with Gabriele, you worked on set to build the chemistry between you and the characters: has the process changed over time?
Honestly, we’ve found people like Giancarlo Commare, to begin with, but also Jenny De Nucci that are just amazing. We were already a team, Josef, Gaia, and I, but with their arrival, we’ve really become a group, and now we all hang out together, have fun, we’ve been a family not only on set but also outside of it. Giancarlo and I, ever since the reading of the script, when the cast was completed, just clicked immediately. It was love at first sight, we rehearsed a lot, worked a lot on the dynamics between the characters, we really put all ourselves in trying to find that spark, that fire that must be up when two people love each other. Moreover, we have a more or less similar approach to work, to acting, so this was extremely helpful because it was like a continuous process of “creating ideas,” it was very stimulating. I feel really happy.
After having spent so much time on set with the same people, having lived all those experiences for so long, is there anything you’re missing already, or anything you think you’re going to miss?
It might be a world record, as it happened in the middle of a pandemic, among other things, and it never happened before that a franchise was launched within one year. It’s been tough, especially filming these last two movies because we filmed them together, in three months, in Turin, so we couldn’t catch a break. Anyway, I love Turin, and I was with these amazing people, so I didn’t mind, we had so much fun [laughs].
Of course, I’ll be missing everything, in general. It was my first project and I would have never expected all that’s happening to me now, all that they’ve and we’ve created. I’m going to miss my character, for sure, but it’s a sort of journey that is coming to an end, and it’s only fair. As for the actors, I know I’ll keep seeing them, today, tomorrow, so I’m not worried about that [laughs], we’ll be seeing each other even outside the set, so I’m okay about that.
How would you describe “Ancora più bello” in one word?
Romantic. There will be lots of dynamics, and not only involving my character, a bit more directed towards the quest for love, I think.
What’s the next character you would like to play, or the one you’re already playing, maybe (and in that case, I guess you can’t tell me about it)?
I can’t tell you about my next projects because they’re in a very embryonic stage, so, for the moment, I can’t unveil much. Generally speaking, a character that I would really like to play, speaking of fragility, in fact, would be someone like those from “Split,” so a bit horror, with many personalities, it would be super cool to play that kind of character.
I can picture you.
What does it mean, to you, to feel comfortable in your skin?
It means to accept myself, with all my flaws. This is something I’ve learned while living here, in Rome. I come from a small town, and maybe I used to see people on social media, also American celebrities, and I tried to compare myself to those standards, and I’m completely different. I’m so different than I used not to like myself because maybe I saw a nose on my face that wasn’t perfect, or because I’m not 1,80 meters tall. Later, instead, I moved to Rome and I saw so many different kinds of people, each beautiful in their own way and each perfect in the same way because you’re beautiful no matter what your shape is, and not because you belong to a canon or standard of beauty, that’s how you see pure beauty. So, when I looked at myself in the mirror again, I saw a different me, a more beautiful me. This helped me with Marta, as well, because they used to paint dark circles under my eyes, or they used to make me look sickly, so the morning after finishing filming at 5 a.m., I used to wake up with my own dark circles, look at myself in the mirror and say, “Wow, I look stunning today!” [laughs].
“…when I looked at myself in the mirror again, I saw a different me, a more beautiful me.”
What you’re saying is very important also because, as you said, it’s difficult for everyone and for all those who dream to become part of that world, to constantly compare themselves with each other because it’s something you can’t help but do, you compare yourself with the others. In the world in which we’re living right now, too, and we hear this a lot, social media, in general, make us compare ourselves with some ideals that don’t even exist, they’re almost impossible. What’s beautiful, instead, is to see diversity, that can be of all kinds, also to spread the message that, like you said yourself, a non-standard nose or a height that is not 1,80 meters, are beautiful anyway because they’re unique; because they’re different from everything else. But it’s not easy.
It’s not easy, I had a mental block at some point, which ended with these movies that, among other things, also talk about this, so I’ve had the first-hand experience with what we intended to tell.
I had a very difficult time when the first teaser trailer with the scene at the park came out, even before the trailer of “Sul più bello” because we had a flood of negative comments, some were also very mean, actually, and I wonder, “How can you possibly write something like that? I wouldn’t have the courage to.” [laughs] At that moment, I felt judged, the movie wasn’t even done and I felt deeply insecure reading those comments because I thought they were judging me. Later, I realized that those people actually just needed to comment, sometimes even just to be answered back, so I’ve learned to ignore such things. On one side, I’ve realized how lucky I am to be an actress, in the sense that, when they write comments, they’re never talking about me, Ludovica, directly, but they’re commenting on my character; so, somehow, if I get a negative comment, it’s never really about me. This saves me, somehow, it also helps me process some things that sometimes feel very heavy. I’ve learned to live with that, to ignore them because they’re unhealthy.
“I’ve learned to live with that, to ignore them because they’re unhealthy.”
Well done. What’s the latest thing you’ve discovered about yourself, instead?
That I’m also a woman. I’ve always seen myself almost as an eternal teenager. I wasn’t afraid to grow up, but I just saw the people around me and, always comparing myself with them, they looked so much older to me, or they seemed to have achieved goals that were greater than mine. By the way, I started elementary school earlier, so the reference people I surrounded me with were always older than me and, somehow, I always felt one step behind. Today, I feel good and I’ve learned to find my femininity, I feel like a woman, I don’t feel like a child anymore.
An epic fail on set?
[Laughs] The first day on the set of “Ancora più bello:” we were at the airport and we were supposed to film a scene where I had to rush into the airport. I park the car and we run inside. First take, all good. The second one, they say to me, “Listen, it’s weird that you leave the car open, use these keys and switch the engine off.” They didn’t tell me that the car, being a brand-new model, super cool, needed a while to switch off, that the lights turned off slowly, in 10 seconds; so, I kept pressing the button to switch off the engine, but the car didn’t switch off, so I said to myself: “All right, people run backward sometimes, maybe looking at the car while switching it off.” Fine, so I turned around and I didn’t see that before me there was a huge cement block and I smashed right into it and tripped over it. There’s a video of this because they were obviously filming the scene, and at some point, you can see my legs standing upright [laughs].
It was a flying start!
Falls aside, what’s your biggest fear?
Spiders, I’m an arachnophobe!
I’m afraid of not being understood, of not being able to explain myself when, maybe, I have a fight with someone, of not being able to say exactly what I want to say, with words, gestures. This is also related to acting, in some way, in the end, because I’m afraid of not being able to fully convey what I feel. I think this is the biggest thing.
“I’m afraid of not being understood, of not being able to explain myself…”
What’s your happy island, instead, the place where you feel serene?
The set. It’s my moment of maximum expression, so I don’t have filters there, and this makes me feel very peaceful, it’s nice. Because with your family, you’re a daughter or a son, with your friends, you’re a friend, we have so many different ways to behave and relate to people, while the set is the only place where I am nothing, I’m a whole other thing, so I can fully express myself.
The latest movie or TV show you’ve watched that surprised you or stuck with you? You know when you see a film or TV show, sometimes, and you keep thinking about it for days…
I saw “Chernobyl,” the TV series on Sky, I’ve recently caught up on it, a girl begged me because she wanted to see it. I’m very sensitive to these kinds of themes, and that series really upset me, it was very, very strong. Gosh… I keep thinking about it and it really left me breathless, not only because of the story itself, which is obviously hard to process but also for the way they made everything up, the costumes, the makeup looks, the way they decided to narrate it, it was very heartbreaking. But very beautiful to watch.
One last question: what’s the bravest thing you’ve done so far?
Give up everything, leave my small town, my securities, and move to Rome to follow my dream. I literally dropped everything, university, as well – which I really liked, by the way, and I’m probably going to enroll at it again because I miss it – because at that moment I wanted to focus all my energies on acting, on following acting classes and invest money on that, too, and it was a risk because it could have been a dead end. Some years have gone by, I was 18 and now I’m 22, and I’m seeing results now, but it’s been a while, anyway, and it was the bravest thing I’ve done. It was me against everyone else because my parents, legitimately, tried to protect me, they said to me: “Don’t drop out of university, make it a parallel thing, a plan B.” Yes, I miss it a lot, but at that moment, I wouldn’t have made it, I literally used to spend 24 hours a day studying acting, so I wouldn’t have been able to invest my energies logically. At that moment, I took a big risk.